Skip to main content

Full text of "Antoine Ouilmette : a resident of Chicago A.D. 1790-1826. The first settler of Evanston and Wilmette (1826-1838) with a brief history of his family and the Ouilmette reservation"

See other formats


^' Of/cac /).!>. 










SEVEN years ago (1901), in a paper read before this 
society entitled: "Our Indian Predecessors the First 
Evanstonians," much of the information here given 
respecting the Ouilmette family and Reservation was 
presented for the first time from original sources and 
research. Since then further information has come to 
my hands from time to time, and the purpose of this 
pamphlet is to preserve for this society in concise form 
what has been thus acquired. 

While at the present time few residents of this vicinity 
or of the North Shore are uninformed, at least to some 
extent, regarding Antoine Ouilmette and his family, still, 
for the convenience of the future student of local history, 
this monograph may be found an improvement on tradi- 
tion embellished and handed down by the ever present 
"Old Settler." 

F. R. G. 

Evanston, 111., May 1st, 1908. 

Bowman Publish 

North Shore Residence of Antoine Ouilmette and Family (1828-1844). See page 19 

From water color drawing 
by Mr. Charles P. Westerfield 

Iki.. HIST. 

* 5a 


The primeval beauty of that ancient forest that stood 
on the western shore of Lake Michigan immediately 
north of Chicago, and covering the ground that now con- 
stitutes the northern portion of the City of Evanston and 
the Village of Wilmette, has passed away. Many of its 
towering elms and great oaks that have stood for centuries 
of time remain to indicate in some measure what was the 
real beauty of that forest in the days when this Illinois 
country was unknown to white men. 

In the place of much of that forest stand costly dwell- 
ings; public buildings; paved streets and all the evidences 
of individual and public effort that illustrate so graphically 
the advance of our western civilization, and especially the 
rapidity of growth and enterprise of Chicago and its 
suburbs. There is probably no spot in America where such 
rapid and marked change has taken place, for there are 
-^many young residents of that part of Illinois known in 
these later days as the " North Shore " who have observed 
step by step these changes that have transformed this wild 
woodland into the suburban home of thousands of Chica- 
go's citizens. 

In the midst of this former forest was the "Ouilmette 
Reservation. " Those two quoted words have a peculiar 
g significance to the few old settlers yet living who knew An- 
toine Ouilmette and his Pottawatomie squaw Archange. 
To the few lawyers and others who have to do with land 
titles and county records they indicate only the legal de- 
scription of a tract of land. It is my purpose to relate as 
briefly as possible what I have been able to learn of its first 
proprietors : 

The Ouilmette Reservation and its former occupants and 
owners have been the subject of much solicitude and inves- 
tigation, not entirely for historical purposes, but more 
especially that the white man might know that he had a 

good white man's title to the Indian's land. Its southern 
boundary was Central Street, or a line due west from the 
Evanston light-house; the eastern boundary, Lake Michi- 
gan; the northern boundary a little south of Kenilworth 
(Elmwood Avenue, formerly North Avenue, Wilmette), 
and the western boundary at the western terminus of the 
present street-car line on Central Street in Evanston and 
Fifteenth Street in Wilmette, from which boundaries it 
will be seen that some 300 acres of the Reservation falls 
within the city limits of Evanston, while the remainder 
includes the greater portion of the Village of Wilmette. 

The Reservation takes its name from its original owner, 
Archange Ouilmette, wife of Antoine Ouilmette, described 
in the original Treaty and Patent from the United States 
as a Pottawatomie woman. The name given the village 
Wilmette originates from Antoine himself and from the 
phonetic spelling of the French name l ' 0-u-i-l-m-e-t-t-e, ' ' 
and is said upon good authority to have been first sug- 
gested as the name of the village by Judge Henry W. Blod- 
gett, late of Waukegan, who was interested in the very 
early real estate transactions of the village. 

There are many interesting facts regarding Ouilmette 
and his family. Antoine, the husband, was a Frenchman, 
who, like many of his coutrymen, came to the West in early 
days and married an Indian wife. He was one of the first 
white residents of Chicago; some of the authorities say 
that, with the exception of Marquette, he was the very first. 
He was born at a place called Lahndrayh, near Montreal, 
Canada, in the year 1760. His first employment was with 
the American Fur Company, in Canada, and he came to 
Chicago in the employ of that company in the year 1790. 

This striking figure in our local history, and in the very 
early history of Chicago, is sadly neglected in most, if not 
all, the historical writings. Almost every one in this lo- 
cality knows that the Village of Wilmette was named after 
him; many misinformed people speak of Ouilmette as an 
Indian chief ; a few of the writers merely mention his name 
as one of the early settlers of Chicago. And that has been 
the beginning and end of his written history. 

Ouilmette 's occupation cannot be more definitely stated 


than to say that, after his employment by the American 
Fur Company, he was an employe of John Kinzie at Chi- 
cago, and thereafter in turn Indian trader, hunter and 
farmer. He was a type of the early French voyageurs, 
who lived and died among their Indian friends, loving more 
the hardships and excitement of the Western frontier than 
the easier life of Eastern civilization. 

Archange Ouilmette, wife of Antoine, was a squaw of 
the Pottawatomie tribe, belonging to a band of that tribe 
located at the time she was married at "Gross Point," or 
what is now Evanston and Wilmette, although the band 
were constant rovers over the territory which became later 
the states of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. 
While Archange was of the Pottawatomie tribe, her father, 
it is said by one authority, was a white man, a trader in the 
employ of the American Fur Company, and a Frenchman, 
bearing the rather striking name of Francois Chevallier. 
Archange was born at Sugar Creek, Michigan, about 1764, 
and died at Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1840. (Authority, 
Sophia Martell, daughter, and Israel Martell, grandson.) 

Ouilmette had eight children, four sons and four daugh- 
ters, viz. : Joseph, Louis, Francis, Mitchell, Elizabeth, Arch- 
ange, Josette and Sophia; also an adopted daughter, Arch- 
snge Trombla, who, on August 3, 1830, married John Mann, 
who in early times ran a ferry at Calumet. (Authority 
John Wentworth and Sophia Martell, the only surviving 
daughter of Antoine Ouilmette. She was still living in 
1905 on the Pottawatomie Indian Keservation at St. 
Mary's, Kansas.) 

If a detailed account of all Ouilmette saw and did could 
be written we would have a complete history of Chicago, 
Evanston and all the North Shore, during the eventful fifty 
years intervening between 1790 and 1840, and it is certain 
that he and his family bore no unimportant part in the his- 
tory of Illinois during that half century of time. 


It appears from a letter signed with "his mark," written 
and witnessed by one James Moore, dated at Racine, June 


3, 1839 (corroborated also by his family), that Ouilmette 
came to Chicago in 1790. A f ac-simile of this letter, which 
is addressed to Mr. John H. Kinzie, appears in Blanchard's 
History of Chicago (p. 574), and contains some interesting 
facts, both historical and personal. He says : 

"My home affairs are sutch that I cannot leave to see you at 

"1 cairn into Chicago in the year 1790 in July witness old Mr. 
Veaux . . . and Mr. Griano . . . These men ware living 
in the country Before the war with the winnebagoes. Trading 
with them I saw the Indians Brake open the Door of my house 
and also the Door of Mr. Kinzie's House. At first there was only 
three Indians come. They told me there was Forty more com- 
ing and they told me to run. i Did So. in nine days all I 
found left of my things was the feathers of my beds scattered 
about The floor, the amount Distroyed By them at that time was 
about Eight hundred Dollars. Besides your fathar and me Had 
about four hundred hogs Distroyed by the Saim Indians and 
nearly at the Saim time, further particulars when I See you. I 
wish you to write me whether it is best for me come thare or 
for you to come hear and how son it must be Done" 

"Yours with Respect" 

Antoine X Ouilmette" 

"Jas. Moore" mark 

The original letter was furnished to Mr. Blanchard by 
Mrs. Eleanor Kinzie Gordon of Savannah, Georgia, a 
daughter of John H. Kinzie. 

Ouilmette owned and occupied one of the four cabins 
that constituted the settlement of Chicago in 1803. The 
ether residents were Kinzie, Burns and Lee (Kirkland's 
Story of Chicago, Andrea's History of Chicago, Mrs. 
"William Whistler's letter, written in 1875). 

Ouilmette was in Chicago at the time of the massacre of 
the garrison of old Fort Dearborn in 1812 by the Potta- 
watomies, and his family was instrumental, at that time, in 
saving the lives of at least two whites. Mrs. John H. Kin- 
zie in her historic book, "Wau-bun" (The Early Day), de- 
pcribes the circumstances: 

"The next day after Black Partridge, the Pottawatomie Chief, 
had saved the life of Mrs. Helm in the massacre on the lake 
shore [commemorated by the monument recently erected at the 
place], a band of the most hostile and implacable of all the 
tribes of the Pottawatomies arrived at Chicago and, disappointed 
at their failure to participate in the massacre and plunder, were 
ready to wreak vengeance on the survivors, including Mrs. Helm 
and other members of Mr. Kinzie's family. Mrs. Kinzie says 
(Wau-bun, pages 235, 240) : 


Partridge had 

particularly awakened for the safely of Mrs. Helm (Mr. 
Kinzies stepdaughter). By his advice she was made to assaisn 
the ordinary dress of a French woman of the country. 

"In this disguise she was conducted by Black Partridge him- 
self to the house of Onilmette, a Frenchman with a half-breed wife, 
who formed a part of the establishment of Mr. Kinzie, and whose 
dwelling was close at hand.* It so happened that the Indians 
came first to this house in their search for prisoners. As they 
approached, the inmates, fearful that the fair 
genera] appearance of Mrs. Hebn might betray her for 
can, raised a large feather bed ***i placed her pawtor t] 
it, upon the bedstead, with her face to the walL Mrs. Bisson, the 
sister of Ouilmette's wife, then seated herself with her sewing 
upon the foot of the bed." 

It was a hot day in August, and Mrs. Helm suffered 
so much from her position and was so nearly suffocated 
that she entreated to be released and given up to the In- 
dians. "I can hut die," said she. "Let them put an end 
to my misery at once." When they assured her that her 
discovery would he the death of them all, she remained 

The Indians entered and 

from her hiding place, gliding about and stealthily 
every part of the room, though without making any 
search, until apparently satisfied that there was no 
cealed, they left the house. . . All this time Mrs. 
kept her seat upon the side of the bed, calmly 
arranging the patch work of the quflt on which a 
engaged and preserving the appearance of the 
lity, although she knew not but the next 
receive a tomahawk in her brain. Her self 
tionably saved the lives of all present. . . 
house the party proceeded to the dwelling of Mr. Kinzie,- 

The Indians had just left Ouilmette's house when 
Griffin, a non-commissioned officer, who had escaped sod 
had been concealed among the current hushes of Ouil- 
mette's garden, climbed into Ouilmette's house through a 
window to hide from the Indians. "The family stripped 
him of his uniform and arrayed him in a suit of deer skin 
with belt, moccasins and pipe, like a French engage," in 
which disguise he also escaped. 

After the massacre, when John Kinzie and all the other 
white settlers and their families, fled from the place, Ouil- 
mette and his family remained, and he was the only white 
resident of Chicago for the following four years, 1812 to 


1816. (Kirkland's ''Story of Chicago"; Hurlbut's "Chi- 
cago Antiquities.") The reason for their thus remaining 
was on account of their friendly relationship with most, if 
not all, the Indian population. 

In 1814 Alexander Kobinson (afterwards chief of the 
Pottawatomies), came to Chicago, and he and Ouilmette 
cultivated the field formerly used as the garden of old Fort 
Dearborn. They raised good crops of corn and sold the 
crop of 1816 to Captain Bradley, after his arrival at Chi- 
cago to rebuild the fort. (Andrea's History of Chicago.) 
He was still in Chicago in 1821. (Andrea's Id. Kirkland 


He had horses and oxen and other stock in abundance. 
In the early days he kept a small store in Chicago, and 
used to tow boats into the Chicago river with his ox teams. 
He also furnished the Fort Dearborn garrison with meat 
and fuel and carried on trading operations with the In- 
dians along the North Shore from Chicago to Milwaukee 
and in Canada, where he frequently went. (Authority, 
Sophia Martell.) 

Mrs. Archibald Clybourne says that Ouilmette raised 
sheep when he lived in Chicago, and that her mother, Mrs. 
Galloway, used to purchase the wool of him with which she 
spun yarn and knit stockings for the Fort Dearborn sol- 

Ouilmette was a thrifty Frenchman. In 1825 he was 
one of the principal tax payers in Chicago, and paid $4 
taxes that year upon property valued at $400, as appears 
by an old tax roll, dated July 25 of that year. (Blanch- 
ard's "History of Chicago, " p. 517.) With one exception 
none of the fourteen tax payers of that year owned prop- 
erty in excess of $1,000. 'John Kinzie's holdings appear 
on the same roll as worth $500, while those of John B. 
Beaubien are set down at $1,000 ; the lowest man on this list 
is Joseph La Framboise, who paid 50 cents on property 
valued at $50, and Ouilmette 's taxes appear considerably 
above the average in amount. He also appears as a voter 
upon the poll book of an election held at Chicago on Au- 
gust 7, 1826, at which election it is said he voted for John 
Quincy Adams for President (Blanchard, Id., p. 519), 

which is the last record I have been able to find of his resi- 
dence in Chicago. 

Oiulmette was a Roman Catholic. In April, 1833, he 
joined, with Alexander Robinson, Billy Caldwell, several of 
the Beaubiens and others, in a petition to the Bishop of the 
diocese of Missouri, at St. Louis, asking for the establish- 
ment of the first Catholic church in Chicago. The peti- 
tion (written in French) says: "A priest should be sent 
there before other sects obtain the upper hand, which very 
likely they will try to do." The early enterprise of the 
church is demonstrated by the fact that the petition was 
received on April 16 and granted the next day. (Andrea's 
History of Chicago.) The seventy-fifth anniversary of the 
founding of this church was celebrated with great cere- 
mony this year (1908) in Chicago. 

This circumstance, in 1833, and many others, seem to in- 
dicate that even after Ouilmette's removal from Chicago to 
the North Shore he and his family remained intimately as- 
sociated with affairs in Chicago. 

Mrs. Kinzie took Ouilmette's daughter Josette with her 
to the Indian agency of which her husband was in charge 
at Old Fort Winnebago, in Wisconsin, on her return from 
Chicago in 1831. She describes her (Wau-bun, p. 300) as 
"a little bound girl, a bright, pretty child of ten years of 
age. She had been at tne Saint Joseph's Mission School." 
Mrs. Kinzie at the time of the Black Hawk War (1832) 
fled from Fort Winnebago to Green Bay in a canoe and 
took this same litle Josette Ouilmette with her (Wau-bun, 
p. 426). 

That Josette was a protege of the Kinzie family, and that 
they took a lively interest in her welfare, Turther appears 
from the treaty of 1833 with the Pottawatomies at Chicago. 
She is personally provided for, probably at the demand of 
the Kinzies, in the following words: "To Josette Ouil- 
mette (John H. Kinzie, Trustee) $200." The other chil- 
dren did not fare so well, for the treaty further provides 
"To Antoine Ouilmette's children $300." 

It also seems that the kindness of the Kinzies to Josette 
was not entirely appreciated by the Ouilmettes. (See cor- 
respondence Evanston Hist. Colls.) 


Mitchell Ouilmette, on May 2, 1832 (as John Wentworth 
says), enlisted in the first "militia of the town of Chicago 
until all apprehension of danger from the Indians may 
have subsided" probably referring to the Black Hawk 
War. Mr. Wentworth 's authority is a copy of the enlist- 
ment roll, where, in transcribing the copy, his name is 
stated as "Michael," an evident mistake in transcribing 
from the original signature. 

While it is true that Captain Heald of Fort Dearborn 
was notified on August 7 or 9, 1812, of the declaration of 
war against England by a message carried by the Potta- 
watomie chief, Win-a-mac, or Winnemeg (the catfish), 
from General Hull at Detroit, warning Captain Heald that 
the Post and Island of Mackinac had fallen into the hands 
of the British, of the consequent danger to the Chicago 
garrison and the probable necessity of retiring to Fort 
Wayne, still it is stated upon fairly good authority that 
Louis Ouilmette, son of Antoine, when a mere boy, learned 
the same facts from a band of Indians on the North Shore, 
coming either from Mackinac or from that vicinity, and 
at once carried the information to the garrison several 
days before the arrival of Win-a-mac. (Authority, data 
in hands of Mr. C. S. Raddin.) 

Some twenty years later this same Louis Ouilmette ren- 
dered further substantial aid to the whites in the Black 
Hawk War. Mr. Frank E. Stevens, in his recent book 
(1903), "The Black Hawk War" (p. 130, 131, 149), seems 
to be the only writer who has given him the deserved 
though tardy recognition to which he seems to be so well 
entitled. He is there spoken of as "a French trader, thor- 
oughly familiar with those parts (Western Illinois and 
Wisconsin) and with Indian character." It seems that at 
this time he was a trader frequenting La Sallier's Trading 
Post, Dixon's Ferry and other points in that vicinity, ren- 
dered valuable assistance as an Indian interpreter and 
scout. (See Mr. Stevens' book and letters from him, Ev. 
Hist. So. Colls.; Reynolds' "My Own Times," p. 361; 
Memories of Shaubema, p. 184; also Life of Col. Dement.) 

From the foregoing facts it is evident that Ouilmette lo- 

10 ' 

cated in Chicago in 1790, and lived there for some thirty- 
six years, and that, as will be shown later, some time be- 
tween 1826 and 1829 he located within the present limits 
cf Evanston or "Wilmette Village, and certainly within 
the Reservation. 


The Indian Treaty of Prairie du Chien, which will be re- 
ferred to more in detail later, in describing the boundaries 
of a part of the lands ceded by the Indians, and dated July 
29, 1829, begins the description as follows : 

''Beginning on the western shore of Lake Michigan, at 
the northeast corner of the field* of Antoine Ouilmette, who 
lives near Gross Point, about twelve (12) miles north from 
Chicago, thence due west to the Rock River," which is the 
first evidence I have found of Ouilmette 's permanent resi- 
dence in this vicinity, although he was married to Archange 
in 1796 or 1797 at "Gross Point," or what is now Wilmette 
Village and Evanston, this being the first North Shore 
wedding of which there is any history. (Authority, Sophia 

This latter circumstance would seem to clearly indicate 
that the band of Pottawatomies to which Archange be- 
longed was located more or less permanently at this point 
on the North Shore in the eighteenth century. 

John Wentworth says in his reminiscences that Ouil- 
mette 's daughter, Elizabeth, married for her first husband 
on May 11, 1830, Michael Welch, "the first Irishman in 

This wedding, with the son of Erin groom and the Potta- 
watomie bride, was celebrated in an old log cabin that stood 
until 1903 on the east side of Sheridan Road at Kenilworth 
and about two blocks north of the Kenilworth water tower. 
The writer took a kodak picture of this log cabin shortly 
before it was removed, copy of which appears in a paper 
entitled "Some Indian Land Marks of the North Shore, 1 ' 
read before the Chicago Hist. Soc. February 21, 1905. (See 
also Evanston Hist. So. Colls.) This cabin was built by 

* Present golf grounds of the Ouilmette Country Club, property of the North- 
western University. 


one John Doyle, who, considering his name and date of 
residence, may be safely designated "the first Irishman of 
the North Shore, ' ' for it is certain there are few living wit- 
nesses who can successfully dispute this statement, nor can 
any good reason be shown why the North Shore should not 
have its "first Irishman" as well as Chicago. 

The authority as to this being the house where the wed- 
ding was celebrated is Mr. Charles S. Raddin of Evanston, 
who secured the information some years ago from Mrs. 
Archibald Clybourne, who may have been present at the 
wedding, although Mr. Raddin neglected to ask her. Mr. 
Raddin was further neglectful in failing to get the name of 
the best man and maid of honor, and whether they were 
Irish or Pottawatomie. The ceremony was performed by 
John B. Beaubien, a justice of the peace, as is shown beyond 
question by the records of Peoria County. 

Ouilmette and his family lived in this cabin at the time 
of this wedding and for some time thereafter, although 
their most permanent abode was about a mile south of 
there, and will receive later mention. (Authority, Sophia 
Martell, who has examined a copy of this photograph and 
identified it, and who also corroborates Mr. Raddin regard- 
ing her sister 's wedding. ) 


The treaty of Prairie du Chien with the Chippewa, Ot- 
tawa and Pottawatomie Indians, by which the reservation 
was ceded to Ouilmette 's wife, was concluded July 29, 
1829. Among other provisions of land for Indians and 
others, Article 4 of the treaty provides as follows : 

"To Archange Ouilmette, a Pottawatomie woman, wife of An- 
toine, two sections for herself and her children on Lake Michi- 
gan, south of and adjoining the northern boundary of the cession 
herein made by the Indians aforesaid to the United States. . . 
The tracts of land herein stipulated to be granted shall never be 
leased or conveyed by the grantees, or their heirs, to any person 
whatever, without the permission of the President of the United 

The land was surveyed by the government surveyors in 


1842 and the patent therefor was issued October 29 of the 
same year. 

This treaty is of special historical interest. By it the 
United States acquired title from the Indians to all of the 
land within the city limits of Evanston and great tracts to 
the west, bounded as follows : Beginning at the north line 
of Ouilmette's reservation, or a little south of Kenilworth* 
on the Lake Shore, due west to the Rock River, thence down 
the river and east of it to the Indian boundary line on Fox 
River, established by the treaty of 1816 ; thence northeast- 
erly on that line to Lake Michigan, thence north along the 
lake shore to the place of beginning. 

[The line mentioned as running "northeasterly to Lake Michi- 
gan" is the center of the street in Rogers Park, known for many 
years and in our records as the "Indian Boundary Road," now 
unfortunately changed by direction of the City Council of Chi- 
cago to "Rogers Avenue." It is about half way between Calvary 
Cemetery and the Rogers Park depot; crosses Clark Street or 
Chicago Avenue at the site of the old toll-gate and Justice 
Murphy's birthplace on the opposite corner. There should be 
active co-operation in restoring the name "Indian Boundary" to 
this highway. I am informed that the name was changed at 
the solicitation of Mr. Rogers' family. He was, no doubt, a 
worthy pioneer, but his name seems to have been sufficiently 
perpetuated by the name Rogers' Park which was the former 
village, now annexed to Chicago. There is, too, a railroad sta- 
tion there of that name and many real estate subdivisions also 
bearing his name. This Indian Boundary line is not only a 
great landmark, but the treaty which fixed it has great historical 
significance in the development of Illinois. This line is referred 
to in many maps, surveys, deeds and conveyances, is in part the 
dividing line between the cities of Chicago and Evanston, runs 
in a southwesterly direction, intersecting other roads and streets 
in such manner as to make it an important and distinctive high- 
way, the importance of which will grow more and more as the 
years go by. The disinclination of City Councils to disturb his- 
torical landmarks by changing the names of old highways should 
surely have been exercised in this instance. Both the Chicago 
and Evanston Historical Societies in joint session at Chicago, 
November 27, 1906, by urgent resolutions requested the City 
Councils of Evanston and Chicago "To change back to its 
original form the name of this highway, thus restoring to it its 
former proper and historic name 'Indian Boundary Road.' " It 
is to be regretted that such action has not yet been taken.] 

This treaty also included a vast territory lying between 
the Mississippi and Rock rivers in Illinois and Wisconsin, 
f,nd was planned, it is said, with reference to the succeed- 
ing Treaty of Chicago in 1833 to finally clear Western Illi- 

* Elmwood Avenue in Wilmette Village. 


nois and Southern "Wisconsin of the Indians. "By its pro- 
visions the Indians became completely hemmed in, or sur- 
rounded. To use a common saying in playing checkers, 
the Indians were driven into the 'single corner' before 
they were aware of it." (Haine's American Indian, p. 

This treaty was the entering wedge, designed, as above 
stated, to eventually oust the Pottawatomies and other 
tribes from Illinois and Wisconsin, and the manner in 
which its execution was secured reflects no credit upon our 
nation. If the writers who have investigated the subject 
can be relied upon, hardly any treaty with the Indians ever 
made is subject to more just criticism. 

It is claimed by Elijah M. Haines, author of "The Amer- 
ican Indian, ' ' that the two sections of land constituting the 
Ouilmette Reservation, were given to Ouilmette's wife and 
children as a bribe for the husband's influence in securing 
the execution of this treaty. Mr. Haines, late of Wauke- 
gan, was for some years Speaker of the Illinois House of 
Representatives, and spent a portion of each year for many 
years among the Indians. In his book he devotes some 
ten pages (550-560) to "the ingenious work in overreach- 
ing the Indians in procuring the execution of this treaty, ' ' 
from which it appears, if Mr. Haines is correct, that plans 
were laid in advance by the Government's agents to carry 
it through by electing chiefs to fill vacancies in the Potta- 
watomie tribe who were not only friendly to the whites, but 
who were parties to a prior conspiracy to dupe the Indians. 
As the author says, "the jury, being thus successfully 
packed, the verdict was awaited as a matter of form. ' ' Mr. 
Haines seems to have reached this conclusion after careful 
investigation, including personal interviews with some of 
the principals, among whom was Alexander Robinson, one 
of the chiefs who was elected at the very time the treaty 
was signed. Mr. Haines sets out a personal interview be- 
tween himself and Robinson on the subject, which is as 
follows : 

"Mr. Robinson, when and how did you become a chief?" 

"Me made chief at the treaty of Prairie du Chien." 

"How did you happen to be made chief?" 

"Old Wilmette, he come to me one day and he say: Dr. Wol- 


oott" (then Indian agent at Chicago, who Mr. Haines says, 
planned the deal) "want me and Billy Caldwell to be chief. He 
ask me if I will. Me say yes, if Dr. Wolcott want me to be." 

"After the Indians had met together at Prairie du Chien for 
the Treaty, what was the first thing done?" 

"The first thing they do they make me and Billy Caldwell 
chiefs; then we be chiefs . . . then we all go and make the 

Chiefs Robinson and Caldwell were handsomely taken 
care of, both in this treaty and subsequent ones, in 
the way of annuities, cash and lands, as were also their 
friends. Archange Ouilmette, Indian wife of the man des- 
ignated by Chief Robinson as "Old Wilmette," and her 
children thus, according to Mr. Haines, secured the two 
sections of land constituting the Reservation under discus- 
sion and which seems to show, if Mr. Haines is correct, that 
Ouilmette was, indeed, as already stated, a thrifty French- 

[See map of 1851 in paper, "Father Pinet and his Mission of 
the Guardian Angel of Chicago," Evanston and Chicago Hist. 
So. Colls, showing Reservations of Ouilmette, Billy Caldwell, 
Alexander Robinson and other parties to this treaty.] 

There is ample ground, however, for disagreement with 
Mr. Haines in his voluntary criticism of Ouilmette in this 
transaction. It must be borne in mind that Ouilmette and 
his family were not only friendly to the whites during the 
stirring and perilous times at Chicago in the War of 1812 
and also in the later Black Hawk War, but they themselves 
had suffered depredation at the hands of the Indians, as 
shown by Ouilmette 's letter to John H. Kinzie. Then, too, 
he was occupying this very land, then of little value, and, 
considering his fidelity to the Government, notwithstand- 
ing his marriage to a Pottawatomie wife, it would seem that 
this cession of these two sections of land, under the circum- 
stances, was entirely right and probably very small com- 
pensation for his friendly services. Then, too, it must be 
remembered that he did not get the land, but it went to his 
Pottawatomie wife and her children. 

Mr. Haines says of this transaction and Dr. Wolcott 's 
and Ouilmette 's connection with it (p. 557) : "In aid of 
this purpose, it seems he secured the services of Antoine 
Wilmette, a Frenchman, who had married an Indian wife 


of the Pottawatomie tribe, one of the oldest residents of 
Chicago, and a man of much influence with the Indians and 
a particular friend of Robinson 's." 

It is fair to say that Mr. Haines excuses both Robinson 
and Caldwell for their action in the matter on the ground 
that they had long been friendly to the whites and were 
misled into believing that the integrity of their white 
friends was as lasting as their own (p. 556). It is to be 
regretted that Mr. Haines did not express the same views 
as to Ouilmette, for history clearly demonstrates that he 
was richly entitled to it. 

This statement of Mr. Haines the writer called to the at- 
tention of Sophia Martell and her son, and we have his 
written reply thereto to the effect that "it is all rot/' and 
that if it was true "Antoine Ouilmette would have re- 
ceived other and different lands for himself," and this 
reservation was theirs "by right," and "their share of 
lands allotted to the Pottawatomies and to different fami- 
lies at that time." (See Ev. Hist. So. Colls.) 

Ouilmette was also on hand when the Treaty of Chicago 
(1833) was negotiated, as he was at Prairie du Chien, for 
the treaty not only provides for the donations already men- 
tioned to Chiefs Robinson and Caldwell, to Ouilmette 's 
children and others, but he secured $800 for himself, as the 
treaty shows. Whether this was compensation for his 
hogs that had been "distroyed" some thirty years before 
by the Indians (mentioned by him in the Kinzie letter), or 
as further compensation for his prior services at Prairie 
du Chien or at Chicago in 1812, is not disclosed, but it cer- 
tainly is evidence of his desire to see that his finances 
should not suffer in deals made with his wife's relations. 


The acquaintance of the first white settlers with the Ouil- 
mette family on this reservation is of interest. To some 
of their reminiscences reference will here be made : 

In a letter written by Alexander McDaniel to the pub- 
lishers of Andrea's History of Cook County (1884), and 
quoted in that work (p. 465), Mr. McDaniel thus describes 


his first trip to the North Shore and his first observation of 
the Ouilmette family. 

"On the 14th of August, 1836, I left Chicago in the morning 
and about noon I brought up at the house of 'Anton' Ouilmette. 
The place was then called 'Gross Point,' being located about four- 
teen miles north from Chicago on the Lake Shore. The house 
that the 'Wilrnette' family then occupied was a large hewed log 
block-house, considered in those days good enough for a very 
congressman to live in, at least I thought so when I was dis- 
patching the magnificent meal of vegetables grown on the rich 
soil, which the young ladies of the house had prepared for me. 
I was then a young man about twenty-one years old, and this 
being my first trip out of Chicago since I had come West, I 
naturally was curious to know more about my hosts. Upon in- 
quiry I soon found out that the family consisted of Anton and 
Archange, the heads of the family, and their eight children, 
Joseph, Mitchell, Louis, Francis, Elizabeth, Archonce, Sophia 
and Josette, Lucius R. Darling, husband of Elizabeth, and John 
Deroshee, husband of Sophia; the father being a Frenchman 
and the mother a half-breed. The children were nearly white, 
very comely, well dressed and intelligent. Josette, in fact, had 
obtained quite a reputation as a beauty. The Wilmettes owned 
cattle, horses, wagons, carriages and farming implements, work- 
ing a large tract of land. 

"After leaving the family I passed along in a northwesterly 
direction to where Winnetka is now located. There I purchased 
the claim on 160 acres of Government land of Perry Baker and 
Simeon Loveland in March, 1837, built a house on the land and 
kept 'Bachelors' Hall' there for five years. I had occasion to 
become very well acquainted with my Indian friends and found 
them most agreeable neighbors." 

(McDaniel moved to Wilmette in 1869. Andrea's Id.) 

The following is quoted from Andrea's History of Cook 
County, p 465 : 

"About the time Mr. McDaniel settled at Winnetka . . . 
Charles H. Beaubien, a cousin of Mark, settled near the center 
of Section 27, on the place now occupied by Henry Gage. Charles 
Beaubien, like his cousin, Mark, was a great fiddler and always 
in demand at dances attended by the few blooming white girls 
of that vicinity and those of a duskier tinge. The Wilmette 
family were upon such occasions in almost as pressing demand 
as Beaubien himself." 

Joseph Fountain, late of Evanston, now deceased, says 
in an affidavit dated in 1871 that when he first came here 
he lived with Antoine Ouilmette; that at that time he (An- 
toine) was an old man, about 70 years of age, and was liv- 
ing upon the reservation with his nephew, Archange, his 
wife, being then absent. * * * That within a year or 
two thereafter the children returned and lived with their 
father upon the reservation. The children went away 
again and returned again in 1844. They were then all 


over lawful age, had usual and ordinary intelligence of 
white people and were competent to manage and sell their 
property. * * * That he was acquainted with the chil- 
dren and their father and after their return assisted them 
in building a house to live in on the reservation. That 
during the last twenty (20) years the Indian heirs have not 
been back there. * * * That in the years 1S52 and 
1853 the land was not worth over $3.00 per acre." 

On inquiry in 1901 of Mary Fountain, Joseph Foun- 
tain's widow, a very old lady,* and by like inquiry of Mr. 
Benjamin F. Hillf and others, the writer ascertained that 
this house of Ouilmette's just mentioned was built of logs, 
situated on the high bluffs on the lake shore, opposite, or a 
little north of Lake Avenue, in the Village of "Wilmette, 
and that the former site of the house has long since and 
within the memory of old residents, been washed into the 
lake, many acres of land having been thus washed away. 
Mr. Hill says that this house was at one time occupied by 
Joel Stebbins, who used it as a tavern. 

In 1857 John G. Westerfield acquired that part of the 
reservation where this house stood and in the year 1865 
"tore the old house down." (Andrea's Hist, of Cook 
County, p. 466.) 

Mr. Charles P. Westerfield, surveyor and a veteran of 
the Civil War, now living in Waukegan, son of John G. 
Westerfield, in a recent letter (March 9, 1908), corrobo- 
rates this statement as to the location of this cabin with 
the exception that he says it stood just a little north of 
what is now Lake Avenue, or, to be exact, immediately east 
of the present Ouilmette Country Club House. The fol- 
lowing is quoted from the same letter : 

"Quite a little grove that stood still east of the cabin site In 
1857, when we first occupied the land, was also washed away. I 
remember that part of the logs of the Ouilmette cabin were used 
by father to build a cowshed on the old place; he also saved some 
of the parts as relics, but I presume they are now lost . . . 
I remember that my child-like curiosity was aroused on at least 
two occasions, as I watched a small squad of Indians turn out 
from the old Green Bay Road and go up to the old cabin and 
look it over as though they were familiar with it, and then again 

* Mrs. Fountain died in Evanston, February 17, 1905. 

ie. "R 


t Benjamin F. Hill died in Milwaukee. Wisconsin, October 7, 1905, his residence 
up to that time, however, having been in Evanston. 

resume their tramp, up to about the year 1860-61, the passing of 
two or three Indians at a time along the Green Bay Road was a 
common occurrence." 

There is no photograph of this cabin known to be in 
existence but Mr. Westerfield has a very distinct recollec- 
tion of its appearance and has at the writer's request kindly 
utilized both his recollection and ability as an artist, in 
supplying this society with a water color drawing of it 
(see original drawing Evanston Historical Society Colls., 
and half tone reproduction frontispiece, page 2, supra.) 

Should the present intention of the citizens of Wilmette 
and of the Sanitary District of Chicago to create and main- 
tain a public park at this place on the lake front, built by 
spoil excavated from the Drainage Canal now in progress 
of construction, be carried out, it is respectfully suggested 
that the Evanston Historical Society or the citizens of Wil- 
mette, or both, erect at, or near the foot of Lake Avenue, 
on the former site of the cabin, a suitable monument bear- 
ing in substance the inscription : 

"On this spot stood the Log Cabin of 
Antoine Ouilmette, the first permanent 
white settler of Chicago (A. D. 1790) and of 
the North Shore (A. D. 1826-1841). He 
married a Pottawatomie woman of the 
band of that Indian tribe, located here in 
the 18th Century. To her and her children 
this land was granted as a Reservation by 
the Indian Treaty of Prairie du Chien, July 
29, 1829. From him the Village of Wil- 
mette derives its name." 

Within a very short distance of Ouilmette 's cabin 
(about 100 feet north) was an Indian mound which had 
been used for burial purposes not a large mound but a 
small one some 10 to 15 feet in length and about 4 feet in 
height later this mound was obliterated in plowing of the 
field by farm hands of Mr. John G. Westerfield and later 
by the washing away of the embankment by the action of 
the lake. One of Mr. Westerfield 's employees, Daniel Ma- 
honey (now deceased) while plowing with an ox team 
about the year 1857 or 1858 over and around this mound 
plowed up several implements including a small steel 
tomahawk now in the collections of this society a loan 
exhibit by Mr. Charles P. Westerfield who is authority for 


this item (see his letters Ev. His. So. Colls., under title 
Ouilmette. ) 

The affidavit of Mr. Fountain indicates that Ouilmette 
lived on the reservation until 1838. His letter of 1839 in- 
dicates a residence at Racine, at which place he had a farm 
for several prior years, and while living in Chicago, or at 
least a tract of land where he frequently went. (Author- 
ity, Sophia Martell.) 

Mr. Benjamin F. Hill says that he knew him about the 
year 1838 ; that he was then a very old man, rather small 
of stature, dark-skinned and bowed with age; that about 
that year he went away. He died at Council Bluffs, De- 
cember 1, 1841. 

Mr. Hill says that Mr. Fountain omits in his affidavit 
one item concerning the acquaintance between Ouilmette 
and Fountain, viz., a lawsuit in which Ouilmette prose- 
cuted Fountain and others for trespassing upon the reser- 
vation by cutting timber, which resulted unfavorably to 
Ouilmette ; that there was a large bill of court costs, which 
Fountain 's lawyer collected by having the sheriff levy upon 
and sell a pair of fine Indian ponies belonging to Ouil- 
mette, which were his special pride, and that it was imme- 
diately after this incident that Ouilmette left the reserva- 
tion, never to return. 

In the years 1843 and 1844 " several of the family re- 
turned" to the reservation, ''occupying the old homestead 
until July of the latter year." (Andrea's Id., p. 466.) 

The value of the timber probably accounts for the selec- 
tion of this land by Ouilmette when the treaty was drawn. 
There are many other interesting reminiscences among the 
old settlers of Evanston regarding Ouilmette. One from 
William Carney, former Chief of Police of Evanston and 
for many years a Cook County Deputy Sheriff, who was 
born in Evanston, is to the effect that Ouilmette often went 
through Evanston, along the old Ridge trail on which the 
Carneys lived, on foot, and always carrying a bag over his 
shoulder; that the children were afraid of him, and that 
Carney's mother, when he was a small boy, used to threaten 
him with the punishment for misconduct of giving him to 
"Old Wilmette," who would put him in the bag and carry 


young Carney home to his squaw. Mr. Carney says: 
1 1 Then I used to be good." And it is local history that in 
later years my youthful associates used to say something 
to the same effect about " being good/' after an interview 
vith Mr. Carney himself, when he had grown to manhood 
and became the first Chief of Police of Evanston, his 
brother John constituting the remainder of the force. In 
those days too, "Carney will get you if you don't look 
out!" was a common parental threat in Evanston. (Mr. 
Carney died in April, 1907, at Evanston.) 


As already shown, neither Archange Ouilmette nor her 
children could, under the Treaty and Patent, sell any of 
the land without the consent of the President of the United 
States. Consequently there is much data respecting the 
family both in the recorder's office of this county and in 
the office of the Interior Department at Washington, espe- 
cially in the General Land Office and the office of Indian 
Affairs. To some of these documents I refer : 

By a petition dated February 22, 1844, to the President 
of the United States, signed by seven of the children of 
Ouilmette (all except Joseph), it appears that Archange 
Ouilmette, the mother, died at Council Bluffs November 
25, 1840, that six of the children signing the petition then 
resided at Council Bluffs, and one (probably the former lit- 
tle Josette) at Fort Winnebago, Wisconsin Territory; that 
in consequence of their living at a remote distance, the land 
is deteriorating in value "by having much of its timber, 
which constitutes its chief worth, cut off and stolen by 
various individuals living near by," which would seem to 
indicate that people were not so good in those days in Ev- 
anston as they have been reputed to be in some later days, 
if the Chicago newspapers can be believed in this respect. 
The petition further says : ' ' The home of your petitioners, 
\?ith one exception, is at Council Bluffs, with the Potta- 
watomie tribe of Indians, with whom we are connected by 
blood, and that your petitioners cannot, with due regard 
for their feelings and interests, reside away from their tribe 


on said Reserve"; also that they have been put to expense 
in employing agents, whose employment has not been bene- 

The petition then asks leave to sell or lease the land, and 
the prayer concludes in the following words : 

"Or, that your Excellency will cause the Government 
of the United States to purchase back from us said Reserve 
of land and pay us one dollar and twenty-five cents per 
acre therefor." 

1 ' And your petitioners further show that they are now at 
Chicago on expense, waiting for the termination of this 
petition, and anxious to return home as soon as possible," 
and request action "without delay." 

As the result of this petition and subsequent ones, Henry 
W. Clarke was appointed a special Indian agent to make 
sale of the Reservation, or, rather, that part of it owned by 
the seven petitioners, so that a fair price could be obtained, 
and sale was made to real estate speculators during the 
years 1844 and 1845. In the correspondence between the 
various departments of the Government with reference to 
the sale, appear the signatures of John H. Kinzie, John 
Wentworth (then member of Congress), William Wilkins, 
Secretary of War; President John Tyler, W. L. Marcy, 
Secretary of War; also the signatures of President James 
K. Polk and U. S. Grant. (For copies of these documents 
see Evanston Historical Society Collections.) 

The south half of the Reservation, including all that is in 
Evanston (640 acres) sold for $1,000, or a little over $1.50 
per acre. The north section was sold in separate parcels 
for a larger sum. The correspondence tends to show that 
the seven Ouilmette children carried their money home with 
them, but as the Special Indian Agent had no compensation 
from the Government and there were several lawyers en- 
gaged in the transaction, the amount that the Indians car- 
ried back to Council Bluffs can be better imagined than 

Joseph Ouilmette in the year 1844 took his share of the 
Reservation in Severalty, deeding the remainder of the 
Reservation to his brothers and sisters, and they in turn 
deeding his share to him. The share that he took was in the 


northeastern part of the reservation; he secured the best 
price in making a sale and seemed inclined, not only to 
separate his property interests from his brothers and sis- 
f ers, but to be more of a white man than an Indian, as he 
did not follow the family and the Pottawatomie tribe to 
the West for several years, but adopted the life of a Wis- 
consin farmer, removing later to the Pottawatomie Reser- 
vation in Kansas, at which time he was a well known man 
at Saint Mary's, Kansas. 

An affidavit made by Norman Clark, May 25, 1871, states 
that Joseph Ouilmette was in 1853 a farmer, residing on 
his farm in Marathon county, Wisconsin, " about 300 miles 
from Racine/' and that the $460 he received for his share 
of the Reservation "was used in and about the improvement 
of his farm," upon which he lived for about seven years, 
and that he was capable of managing his affairs "as ordi- 
nary full-blooded white farmers are"; that from 1850 to 
1853 he carried on a farm within two miles of Racine, pre- 
sumably on the land formerly owned by his father, An- 

It appears from various recorded affidavits that*all of the 
children of Ouilmette are now dead. Such affidavits must 
have been made from hearsay and with a view of extin- 
guishing upon the face of the records all possible adverse 
claims, for, as heretofore stated, Sophia Martell was living 
at last accounts (1905) on the Pottawatomie Reservation in 
Kansas, at a very advanced age, but with a good memory 
that has served a useful purpose in supplying the writer 
with some of the facts here noted. With this exception, all 
of the children are dead, but many of their descendants are 
still living on this same Kansas Reservation, and several of 
them are people of intelligence and education, prizing 
highly the history of their ancestors. (See correspondence 
with them, Evanston Hist. So. Collections.) 

The only relic of Antoine Ouilmette in the hands of the 
Evanston Historical Society is an old chisel, or tapping 
gouge used by him in tapping maple trees in making maple 
sugar on the Reservation, at a point a little west and some 
two blocks north of the present Wilmette station of the 
Northwestern Railway, immediately west of Dr. B. C. 


Stolph's residence. This chisel or gouge was secured by 
Mr. Benjamin F. Hill in this sugar bush soon after Ouil- 
mette went away, and there is not the slightest doubt of its 
being the former property of Ouilmette, for Mr. Hill was 
not only the John Wentworth of Evanston in the matter of 
being an early settler (1836), with a great fund of authen- 
tic information, but was a man of force and intelligence, 
of excellent memory and unquestionable integrity, and al- 
ways interested in historical subjects, as his many valuable 
contributions to the Evanston Historical Society abun- 
dantly show. (See Hill Exhibits and papers.) 

Mr. Edwin Drury of Wilmette Village, presented (1908) 
to this society a very curious relic found within a short dis- 
tance of the former site of the Ouilmette cabin and of Mr. 
John G. Western" eld's former residence, viz., a very odd 
piece of broken statuary, dug up by workmen in making 
an excavation. This broken image was found in a bed of 
blue clay, some three feet below the surface, immediately 
under a large wild crab apple tree, the age of which would 
seem to indicate that the soil had not been excavated nor 
disturbed for very many years. Whether Mr. Drury 's 
suggestion that it might be a relic of the early Jesuits pos- 
sibly of Father Pinet, who founded in this vicinity a mis- 
sion among the Miami Indians in the year 1696, is a ques- 
tion respectfully referred to the local archaeologist. It is 
at all events an interesting object for study. (See Mr. 
Drury 's letter regarding same, Ev. Hist. So. Colls., title 


There is every reason to believe that Antoine Ouilmette 
and his family well deserve what little of compliment has 
here been paid to their history and memory. Should any 
incredulous reader, however, be inclined to doubt that Ouil- 
mette and his descendants were people of ability or that the 
flight of time has added any enchantment to this view, the 
writer would for illustration refer to the correspondence 
with I. J. Martell, a grandson, on file in the collections of 
this society. One of these letters, written in a fine hand, 
showing that the writer has not been inattenive to the ad- 


vantages of a common school or commercial college educa- 
tion, and that he at least respects the traditions regarding 
his grandfather (though with an inclination not to exag- 
gerate the Indian blood in his veins), will here be quoted. 
This letter is as follows : 

"Kansas City, Mo., August 22, 1905. 
"Mr. Frank R. Orover, Chicago, III. 

DEAR SIR: Your letters with interrogatories received and in 
reply thereto, will say: That I am one of the sons of Mrs. Sophia 
Martell; and a grandson of Antoine and Archange Ouilmette, of 
whom you inquire. 

My Mother is visiting me here, and from her I get the informa- 
tion you desire. 

Much more can be said of her and her parents that is hard 
to put on paper, but which I can tell verbally. 

She is now the only one of the eight children of Antoine and 
Archange Ouilmette living, and is still hale and hearty with 
good memory and understanding, and she remembers many 
things of importance regarding the old times. 

Her father, Antoine Ouilmette, was a Frenchman, who came 
to your city in its earliest days from Canada. 

Her mother, Archange Ouilmette, was more French than In- 
dian, as her father was also a Frenchman by the name of 
Francois Chevallier, and her mother was half French and Indian. 

From all I can learn, and what I have always heard, Antoine 
Ouilmette was a progressive, energetic man of good business 
ability for those times, he accumulated considerable property. 
He had a store in Chicago, and also a fine lot of horses, cattle, 
sheep and hogs. He also had a farm at Racine, Wisconsin, 
which he frequently visited while living in Chicago. He also 
made occasional business trips to Milwaukee and Canada. 

He furnished the Fort with beef and pork and also cordwood, 
in the later days of his residence in and around Chicago. He 
had the contract to pilot the lake boats up the Chicago River 
with cattle, of which I am told he had 100 yoke. 

He was known as a kind, whole souled, generous man of 
remarkable energy and perseverance, who made friends with 
everybody, both Indians and whites, and he in turn was univer- 
sally liked and respected. He was very methodical in his habits 
and ways of doing business, and noted everything down on 
paper, and prior to his death he left a trunk full of papers which 
he prized as being valuable. 

I can get more detailed information from one of my cousins, 
now an old man, and also from an old lady who both now live 
in Oklahoma, concerning him, as they both knew him personally 
and lived with his family in Chicago. 

I would be glad to see and tell you more of him and his 
family after seeing the parties I refer to, and would like to hear 
from you at an early date regarding the matter. 

If you will bear expense of trips I will go at once to Oklahoma 
and see them, and then to Chicago and see you. 

Can furnish photos of my mother, Joseph and Frank Ouil- 
mette, and may be able to get something of the kind in Okla- 

Awaiting an early reply and trusting that I may be of further 
service to you, I am Very respectfully yours, 


711 Locust St., Kansas City, Mo. 

More than a century has rolled by since this French 
voyageur first saw the site of Chicago. The snows of eighty 
winters have come and gone since he and his Pottawatomie 
squaw made the same choice of a home, in the forest on the 
shores of old Lake Michigan, that their Anglo-Saxon suc- 
cessors later also chose and now enjoy and occupy. Their 
log cabin has passed away. They themselves years ago de- 
parted forever to "the undiscovered country. " The wig- 
wams of the Pottawatomies have long since completed the 
many successive stages of their westward journey, but we 
may still enjoy in reverie, if not in recollection, and despite 
the ceaseless change of the twentieth century, the Ouil- 
mette Keservation and the North Shore as it used to be.